Over the weekend, Montana Republicans held their platform convention in Billings. Chuck Johnson of Lee Newspapers reports that Republicans, "Irked at what they believe is Democrats interfering in their primary elections. . . called for closing their primaries and allowing only registered Republicans to vote in them." Delegates also supported a resolution to turn over federal public lands to the state.
Sen. Tester was in Montana this week for his V.A. listening tour, hearing from vets about the problems they face getting adequate care. Tester told MTPR’s Edward O'Brien, "It's gonna cost some money. I think this bill we passed out of the Senate that's going to conference is about $35 billion dollars. That's real money. Healthcare is expensive. And for the folks who served in the military that have earned this health care, we owe it to them and it's a cost of war that needs to be factored in every time we deploy folks."
At the Kalispell listening session Tester heard from vets and their family members about some of their difficulties with the V.A. MTPR’s Katrin Frye reports "[a] veteran summed up the feelings of many by saying most of what he suffered from these days, was waiting. Lost claims, paperwork, delays in receiving medicine, as well as prescriptions being too freely doled out and leading to addiction are other issues brought up by veterans."
Later during the listening session, Frye says, one vet "brought up an issue many others spoke of – lost paperwork. He said the law states if the V.A. can’t find your record, you weren’t sick. Tester called that crazy, and Gardner asked him to 'work on crazy for us.'"
In legislative news, a lawyer for state Senate Majority Leader Art Wittich asked a judge to dismiss charges that Wittich broke campaign reporting laws, saying that the charges were improperly filed. As Lee Newspaper’s Mike Dennison reports, Wittich's attorney "also argued that state Political Practices Commissioner Jonathan Motl is 'stretching and exceeding his...authority' to pursue a political agenda against Republicans."
Motl disagreed saying "Wittich is trying to make a 'political argument' rather than one based on the law. Motl said his office pursues complaints that are filed, and that most of the current crop of complaints has been filed against Republicans – by other Republicans."
Writing for the Missoula Independent, Ted McDermott wonders if Charter Communications' failed ballot initiative aimed at reducing their tax burden will set a precedent for more corporate perversion of the initiative process.
"'Over the years, the initiative process has been an avenue for, basically, citizens to reform the political process when the legislative process is controlled by economic interests,' says C.B. Pearson, a policy consultant who has worked on a number of citizens’ initiative campaigns in Montana."
"While those economic interests have periodically interfered in the initiative process, Charter’s attempt to enlist voters in a campaign to overturn a Supreme Court decision and reduce its tax burden struck some as an unprecedented abuse."